|The best man to lead us forward?|
“It’s not a sense of sentimentalism, not a reward for services, it’s a belief that we have an incredible manager who loves this club and is the best man to lead us forward,”The excerpt above is one that has drawn the ire of fans who believe that a lack of trophies in the past seven years hardly qualifies Wenger as the "the best man to lead us forward."
From the club's perspective though, I'll say you can never find more truism in one line than that one. Given the club's stance on self-financing, the attendant wage and transfer budget restrictions, the move from Highbury to the Emirates, Arsenal could never have found a better man for the job. A man who maybe because of his academic background in economics has never failed to show his disdain at the kind of reckless spending that's exhibited by the richest clubs and ultimately coined the term "financial doping" to describe this state of affairs.
"I think that it is right that you balance your books, to accept the one basic principle for every company, and that's that you can spend the money which you make. That principle just seems to be a common sense and logical one."
"I don't want to go into excuses but you want a business to be run properly and I believe that, to lose £150 million a year, you don't deserve a lot of credit to win a competition."These are some of the principles that guide Arsene Wenger's approach to football management and he's never looked like he'll be tempted to deviate from it instead he hopes that with UEFA's introduction of Financial Fair Play, a more level playing field will be created and his stance will ultimately be vindicated having spent the past few years preparing for it unlike his rivals.
The club's self-sustaining model dictates that the club is financed solely from revenues earned by the club without outside investment. It requires that the club must live from its income, and no director or owner must put a penny into the club. This is the one policy that I believe makes Arsene Wenger and Arsenal FC a perfect fit. This policy, if my understanding of business structuring is anything to go by and I stand to be corrected, is a policy that was adopted at board level by the owners of the business.
Arsene Wenger is neither a majority shareholder nor a member of the board. I've argued here and elsewhere in the past that he's an employee of the club no matter how much influence he's been credited with. He happens to buy into the financial model the owners have chosen and in implementing that strategy has become the face of the club and has never been afraid to be vilified for the failings of this approach. As the chairman asserted in a recent interview,
"I don't think Stan Kroenke is going to put the sort of dollars in that Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour are putting into Chelsea or Manchester City. That's not the way he thinks clubs should be run. Luckily, Arsene understands that. He got an economics degree from Strasbourg University so he's certainly no fool.
The bottom-line here is that if the club felt that Arsene Wenger was not doing a good job with the control he's been afforded as well as the resources that have been put at his disposal, the club can and will fire him. That an extension of his contract is being mooted now despite not winning a trophy in the last seven years is a testament of the belief the club has in his abilities.
I personally believe that Arsene Wenger's achievement of consistently finishing in the top four despite being unable to compete in the transfer market with the richest clubs is a commendable feat despite not winning a trophy in the past seven years. I believe what he has achieved is directly proportional to what has been invested in the team. Every team that's done better than Arsenal during this time has invested significantly more than Arsenal has invested.
It's an academic exercise but I doubt that any of the top managers in football would have kept Arsenal as competitive as we've been given the same resources that Arsene has had at his disposal for the simple reason that they do not even believe in the same basic economic principles that guide Arsenal FC's approach. A good example is Mancini's public whinging during the summer transfer window about City's refusal to bring in new players while the club's chief executive tried to explain the concept of FFP and the need for the club to offload some of its over-priced and over-paid players before any purchases could be made.
The last annual Arsenal Supporters Trust survey showed that most fans still hold Wenger in high regards judging from the 77% that voted in favour of his remaining manager of Arsenal. Those who argue against his staying on have credited this position mostly to the lack of trophies at the club in the past seven years.
I think it's rather simplistic to think that any manager that's brought in to replace Wenger will automatically do better than he's currently doing at Arsenal. Will the club go on to change the self-financing model that's currently being used? Will a budget be put in place that will allow the new manager compete in the transfer market with the likes of Madrid, United, City, Chelsea etc? Will the club raise the wage budget to compete with these clubs? If these will not change then I personally don't see who will navigate the present waters better than Wenger.
Arsene Wenger has not won a trophy at Arsenal in seven years but as a business venture he has ensured that the club's financial position is the envy of its peers; not many business owners will sack such a manager. Not especially business owners who are not required to dig into their pockets for additional investment.
Having said that, I think the club will do well to find a way to strike a balance between its chosen self-financing approach and keeping its best players. It's difficult to separate both since the self-financing model ensures that the club is unable to pay the kind of wages that the top clubs are paying which means the best players can be lured away by the "filthy lucre" that's on offer elsewhere. And who can blame them really considering how short the career of the average footballer is. They have to look out for themselves and their families. Many of us who criticize players for disloyalty change jobs for more money all the time.
Insisting on the self-financing thingy requires that the club digs deeper to find the kind of innovation that will keep the club's best players tied down so that they can be built on in subsequent seasons. This will ensure the stability that has eluded us these past few seasons with an average of two of our best players leaving the club every season. Therein lies our road to on-field success and trophies.
I propose innovation here because when I look at the clubs that have won the championship in the time we have won nothing, I see two determining factors; stability and financial prowess. United and Chelsea have had both while Manchester City have bought their way there. We have neither of those so how do we get there?
I've never advocated for spending criminal sums to acquire players and I think the acquisition of Cazorla during the summer shows that you can indeed buy quality without breaking the bank. That's the kind of innovation that can bridge the gulf between spending criminally on players and spending smart. That's the kind of innovation that has been lacking in the club's transfer dealings for a while now. That's the kind of resourcefulness and innovation that will have to be upped to ensure that instead of slipping off our perch in the top four, we can progress to win trophies again and once more get back to being the Arsenal that Arsene Wenger made many of us come to love.
In Arsene I still believe. What say you?
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